National Geographic Channel Earth Day Run 2010

27 03 2010

After the Earth Hour tonight, let’s again show that we care for our planet.  Join the National Geographic Channel Earth Day Run 2010 to be held on April 18 at the Mall of Asia grounds.

This is going to be a very memorable event for me.   With the involvement of the National Geographic Channel, it will be something.   

Online registration runs until April 4 while cash registration thru the Nike Outlet in Bonifacio High Street and Timex outlets in SM North EDSA and Mall of Asia is until April 11.

The registration fee includes a limited edition of the NatGeo Earth Day Run technical shirt.



Earth Hour 2010

23 03 2010

Earth Hour has increased awareness of climate change issues.  In 2009, more than 4,000 cities in 88 countries showed support by switching off their lights making Earth Hour 2009 the world’s largest global climate change initiative according to the


This year, Earth Hour will take place on Saturday, March 27 at 8:30 p.m. (local time).  In our company, we are encouraged to show our resolute commitment to mitigate climate change starting on Friday (last working day) by wearing blue.  

Let’s get involved in this move before it’s too late.  It’s our planet, anyway…

Nowhere but at Sonya’s Garden…

14 03 2010

Based on the descriptions shared by a colleague way back then – salad of greens and petals, eating area amidst enchanting garden, no walk-ins but reservations only – I was certain that I was going to like the Sonya’s Secret Garden.   So after our overnight stay and pampering moments at the Nurture Spa in December 2005, I and two friends stopped over for lunch and from there the brief introduction to this once secret garden started.  We inquired if we can take a look at one of the rooms.  The staff took us then on a walk-through of one of the big cottages and the restaurant area.  There we decided to have our relaxation vacation the following year in Sonya’s. 

It didn’t happen in 2006 and the following years not because we chose another destination, but because we had conflicting schedules.  

I finally had a chance last January with my balikbayan (Philippine nationals who are permanently residing abroad or those of Filipino descent who acquired foreign citizenship and permanent status abroad) relatives. They had to attend a wedding in Tagaytay so I suggested to spend a night at Sonya’s, not because it is situated in Tagaytay (only a few know that it is located in Alfonso, Cavite) but because it is very close to Tagaytay.  

The frontage and parking area had the same look, as far as I can recall, plain rocks laid down on an uncemented ground, no landscapings.  At the back of my mind, there was this line of speech for my companions, “No, please don’t get discouraged yet.  There are many beautiful surprises to redeem this lack of interesting scenery.”  I was right. My sis-in-law’s mother was sort of disappointed but remained silent about it until we got into our cottage. Here, the old adage, “First impressions last.”, didn’t apply.  Later, she described Sonya’s Garden as more beautiful than the Butchart Gardens of Vancouver, Canada. 

To go to the  reception area, we walked down the pathway of wood planks and stones amidst fire trees, butter bushes, then, lo and behold, a wooden huge gate.  Countless flowering plants of all sorts abound in the unmanicured lawns along the way and then chimes of various shapes and sizes hanged in either the trees or verandas with those relaxing tones and…

 stone bowls of different sizes with colorful petals afloat welcomed us.  

Our admiration of the place increased as we were ushered to our respective cottages, named after herbs – with an ante-room and furnished with wood furniture, big beds clothed with crisp white sheets complemented with soft white pillows in embroidered cases. Moroccan glass lanterns hanging so freely in the high ceilings provide a more relaxing ambience.  What I liked the most in the cottages is the spacious bath area of pebbled flooring with huge flat river stones to step on, equipped with shower head of the rain-dome type, adorned with an arrangement of floating petals in a stone bowl.  Fresh-smelling toiletries made exclusively by Ilog Maria are arranged in a receptacle.  Next to the bath area, I also liked the nook where two soft white pillows await its occupant.  This place which is overlooking (in our cottages) the small wilderness is an ideal place to read a good book or just curl up and relax.  Other items of interest are mirrors set in Indonesian woodcarvings mounted on the wall, gauzy white cloth that serve as a shower curtain, shell-beaded curtains and bits & pieces of antiques.   

After we settled our things in the cottage, we went out to explore the area and there we met the owner, Ms. Sonya Garcia.  So we walked with her toward the location of the Panaderia (local bakery) and Country Store and we passed again through the pathway of wooden planks and stone.  From that spot, she let us smell a huge pink flower and asked how it smelled.  “Does it not smell butter?” So we learned that it’s called butter bush.  Actually it is a tree bearing that baby pink-colored flower.  

Then dinner came.  It was truly filling with fresh greens (lettuce only, no arugula, nor fennels and parsley as described by others) and an assortment of toppings e.g. cheese, corn, cucumber, boiled egg, pineapple, mango and toasted broad beans with two kinds of dressing to choose from – Sonya’s secret dressing or vinaigrette; freshly baked bread from the Panaderia with various dips such as basil pesto, white cheese, anchovies, bruschetta tomato toppings, mushroom pate, black olive tapinade and fresh green peppercorn in olive oil; and pasta with two kinds of sauces – sun dried tomato and chicken cream – and salmon belly.  If the salmon was not too oily, we would have consumed it all but it was redeemed by the entire hearty experience.  For the sweet ending, we had glazed sweet potato, banana rolls with sesame & jackfruit and a small slice of chocolate cake from the Panaderia.  Everyone enjoyed the drinks – refillable freshly squeezed dalandan (local orange) juice and the ender of all enders the tarragon tea, which tasted like hot rootbeer. 

Is there a better way to end the day than to spoil your senses?  So the ladies had the Magnolia Package which is a complete head-to-toe, two-hour pampering rituals, consisting of aromatherapy steam bath, foot spa, manicure and pedicure and Sonya’s Signature Massage.  My brother delighted himself in the Bentosa with Hilot Massage (an ancient hilot technique which utilizes tiny pieces of a local herb called damong maria that are burned in air tight glass cups. This creates heat and suction as the cups are applied to nerve points of the back. The treatment, combined with Filipino hilot techniques on the back and legs, promotes balanced blood flow, stimulates circulation, removes toxins and dissipates cold spots) 

The following morning, we joined Ms. Sonya for the basic yoga session which we arranged upon our check-in.  We just did a few sun salutation poses.  It was such a very personal encounter with her.  Initially, I and my brother were the only present but my sis-in-law joined after a while. After the session, we took a leisurely walk in the garden and there she showed us some unique and very colorful flowers which are often the subject of artists then toured us in her greenhouse of mostly herbs.  She let us taste the stevia, a substitute for sugar, and the others, of which the names we could no longer remember. 

And for our last meal, breakfast that is, we had her version of adobo, fried boneless bangus and omelet, paired with her fried rice (has similarity with bagoong rice), mango salsa, thick hot chocolate drink (there’s coffee for coffee lovers).  To our request, her staff also generously served us again her freshly-baked wheat bread. 

I still would want to visit this place maybe during the firefly mating season co’z during this time fireflies come out and light the place even in the darkest of nights. So firefly watching!  It will be another interesting experience, nowhere but at Sonya’s.

Awesome Coron and Busuanga! – Part II

20 02 2010

Days 2 and 3: Island Hopping and Banana Island Overnight

Island hopping is one real thrilling and unforgettable experience in Busuanga.  But you must really be a little daring and adventuresome especially when you go from late December to January, when the waters get rougher and the wind blows stronger.  The roof of our outrigger boat had to be rolled to make our sailing easier (and get a tan faster for that matter).  At times, the wind and water conditions can even go that worse as what we experienced on the 23rd of December as we sailed back to Coron’s town proper after an overnight stay in Banana Island.  Although a wave alert is available at DIYCoron site (owned by Owen, our tour service provider), you must be prepared to any change in conditions during the amihan (the season dominated by the trade winds) period.                                      

What a big disappointment co’z  we didn’t get a chance to stop by and snorkel in Siete Pecados, a marine sanctuary.  It was still low tide when we passed by on Day 2 so the boat couldn’t come nearer or it would destroy the corals.  On Day 3, the water was not calm enough to deal with. 

So our first stop was in Kayangan Lake, dubbed as the cleanest lake in the country for several consecutive years.   The view as we approached the bay was already amazingly beautiful.

Everyone was excited to see what lies above.  It was another challenging but more exciting 15-minute climb through the rocks to get to the spot to capture the famous postcard view. 

Then we had to manage another steep descent to reach the blue lagoon.  Only about three small groups were in there and one was about to leave so by the time we took our plunge, only a few were left.  After a short while, the lagoon was all ours (an advantage when you go during non-peak season).  It was paradise-like,  surrounded by limestone cliffs with the blue water calm and clear. 

Breathtaking scenery! I wish I knew how to really swim (thanks to my life vest that I can snorkel around).  Just a little below the water surface, near the rocks we saw some tiny friendly fish (visitors don’t seem to bother them at all).  No signs of big fish in the area.  We didn’t notice the passing of time co’z the whole experience was awesome.  I think it was almost 1 p.m. when we decided to leave and have our lunch back down in one of the picnic huts fronting the dock area.

We skipped Barracuda Lake.  According to the boatman, the climb to get to the lake could be treacherous – jagged limestone cliffs.  Sigh!

Twin Lagoons came next.  Our boat anchored on the first lagoon where the water is warm and blue. We snorkeled our way to the next lagoon thru a small edged opening underneath a hanging jagged limestone cliff, which was visible at that time co’z it was low tide, otherwise, we would need to climb up the makeshift ladder and dive. 

I was not too comfortable in the second lagoon which has colder water and is surrounded by grayish cliffs.  Water visibility and temperature are distorted due to what the divers term as thermocline.  At one part, the water was warm and suddenly in one part cold.   All these make for an unforgettable adventure.

Off to our next stop, Banol Beach, a popular stop-over for lunch.  Here we were welcomed by a small shoreline surrounded with limestone cliffs.  This powdery-white sand beach is literally small but fortunate we were that there was only one small group of visitors that time.  The sand is white.  The water is turquoise and pristine – a good spot for snorkeling and also kayaking.  A perfect place to get a good nap under the open huts with the sounds of the wilds and waves, but we couldn’t afford.  The water was more inviting for a swim even when the sun is still up.  We wanted to stay longer but there were other spots to see…

Then to the Skeleton Wreck… The skeleton of the bow (forward part of the boat or ship) was an eerie sight.  I and my sis-in-law felt the same way.  It was unexplainable.  But, we still managed to take a longer look.  It was a rare opportunity, anyway…  So the boat which was about 25 meters long was beached 12 meters from the shores of Coron Island.  This allows the snorkelers to see a good view of the wreck. Another unforgettable exploration of the island….

Our final destination for the day, the Banana Island, for an overnight stay… We had to leave early as the water got rougher.   Estimated travel time was an hour and a half.  By the time we reached the island, it was almost sunset. The water was cold as we disembark.  Two dogs – a black and a white – and the owner welcomed us.  We stayed in the beach for about an hour to enjoy the view, bury our feet under the sand and watch the sunset. 

When the wind was getting stronger and colder to the skin, we decided to leave the beach and proceed to our rented thatch-roofed cabana.  We were told that electricity here is sourced both from generator and solar lights.  

The water was a little calmer that morning as compared with last night’s.  Everyone had a hard time falling asleep co’z of the sounds of the strong waves – our cottage was just about 20 meters away from the shoreline.   

After breakfast, we decided to explore the whole stretch of the island. Between the sandbar and shore of the island, a few corals and colorful clams embedded in a coral can be found sitting in the above-ankle-deep water.  At first, we thought the clams were corals until our boatman, who followed us, told that they were clams.  We stood there dumbfounded.  Stunning! 

A little farther, our boatman showed us a small dwelling of three clown anemonefish (a.k.a. clown fish), then one surprisingly came out. 

We headed to Bulog Dos Island after lunch.  Just a few minutes away from Banana Island, the shoreline is even smaller than Banol’s.  The sand is also powdery-white.  This is a good place to snorkel.   

We didn’t notice that we had gone quite farther exploring the water – lots of fish – big and small – and sea urchins.   The boatman who guided me on my swim back to our boat even showed me a giant squid.  Our snorkeling didn’t last that long co’z there were still a number of islands, in our itinerary, to see.

Malcapuya Island was next.  “Puya” is Cuyonon for “girl,” so Malcapuya literally translates into “You’re bad, girl.”.  This is said to be the Boracay of Palawan.  We took the back side to dock our boat and then walk up the hill past some coconut trees and huts to go to the beach.   The main strip is the widest among the island beaches, a half-kilometer stretch of white-powdery sand.  

From the view cliff on one side, you can see another magnificent view of the water and the other islands.   How I wished we had enough time to swim in the crystal-blue water. It was such a brief encounter!  I’ll definitely return to this place…

The waves were getting bigger as we sailed farther toward Coron’s town proper.  We were hoping to see Siete Pecados and CYC but it was no longer a good idea.  Our return cruise was at its most challenging situation.  The wind was whipping harder, the water was rougher.  The young boatman was really good to be able to maneuver the boat.   Each tried to put on a brave face that time.   We were all dripping wet.  We failed to take our snack.  But we didn’t mind anymore.   All we wanted was to safely reach our destination the soonest.   We never had the chance to see Siete Pecados and CYC Island but we were grateful for another beautiful sight – the sunset

… and the safe arrival.   It took us more than 3 hours.   

Hasta la vista, Coron and Busuanga!

Awesome Coron and Busuanga! – Part I

Awesome Coron and Busuanga!

20 02 2010

Who wouldn’t get excited with Busuanga and Coron?  If you’re a real nature-tripper or lover, these islands will surely be in your list of must-see places and once you set foot in these awesome places, you would love to go back and appreciate their beauties over and over again.  I, myself, would love to explore again these places.  One visit is not enough to complete the islands experience.   Each spot has its own beauty to offer that I wouldn’t want to miss, not even one.  I can proudly say, “The Philippines is rich indeed in natural wonders.”

Day 1:  Inland Tour and Maquinit Hot Springs

After a brief visit to the municipality hall via trike (three-wheeled motor vehicle), we proceeded to the Lambingan Bridge.  The bridge itself was not a sight to behold but the view starting from near the end – view of the vast bay and the distant mountain cliffs. 

At first, we thought Mt. Tapyas was an easy climb.  Under the still scorching sun, at past 3 p.m., almost 2 hours earlier than our schedule, we took our first step of the more than 700 steps.  We didn’t stop in the first few resting sheds co’z we still had the energy until up higher and became thirsty and drenched in sweat.  My brother went topless when past halfway up.  We planned to time our climb and count the steps but forgot all about them co’z of the stops (and rests) and sightseeing (and picture takings). 

The sight was well worth the arduous climb. Stayed for more than an hour to enjoy the panoramic view of the rolling hills, Coron Bay and the adjoining islands… and catch the sunset.  

The descent was quite easier sans the sun and along the way down, we caught a glimpse of a tiny animal running fast towards the bushes (I and my sis-in-law was quite sure that it was not a rat, mostly likely a bird).  According to the trike driver it must have been a quail co’z there are quails in the area.

A dip in the 40o Celsius Maquinit Hot Springs, said to be the only known saltwater spring in the country, was the best way to end the day, to soothe our sore legs and tired bodies.  The about 30-minute ride along the bumpy and dark road, with only the trike headlight illuminating our way, was part of the excitement.  Sitting amidst trees, Maquinit is truly an enchanting and relaxing place.  I guess there are two reasons why it is best to go from dusk to evening – the temperature may be unbearable when the sun is still up and you might be turned off with the slippery bottom due to algae (and think the water is unclean as I thought).  

Awesome Coron and Busuanga! – Days 2 and 3: Island Hopping and Banana Island Overnight

Coron countdown starts…

14 12 2009


The famous angle on the way to the Kayangan Lake. Photo taken by Ferdz Decena.

Coron is just a few more night sleeps away.  As my brother from Canada and his wife count the remaining nights to their Philippines vacation (just two nights away as of this writing), I also do my own countdown.  Exactly a week from now, I’ll be seeing the Island of Coron and I’m sure life will never be the same again.

Ondoy: The Worst in 40 Years

28 09 2009

My family and I are still lucky to be residing in the south of Metro Manila.  Only isolated areas suffered from flooding, mostly those areas near the creeks or the really low streets.  But I had my share of fearful experience last Saturday during the heaviest of rains.  After our visitation, a church activity, I was expecting a flood in front of Pilar Village, along the national road, where I would pass through due to the non-stop heavy downpour so I decided to have my car tires checked at Servitek first.  I was thinking that the waters would have gone down by the time I was done.  Unfortunately, the rains had not stopped.  At past 1:00 p.m., I was already starving so I decided to go and try my luck with the flood.  The traffic was already building.  At least there were many of us, I thought.  As I drew near the flooded area, I was really praying hard to make it.  I successfully crossed it but when I reached our village, I realized that it was above-knee-deep in one portion of the road.  I stopped my engine for about a minute then decided to take an alternate route using my “friendship pass” (car sticker to access subdivisions opened to the general public to ease traffic problems), however, another portion of the national road (along the bridge atop a creek before the Ever Supermarket) was flooded.  “Oh! Not again!”  Again, I hoped I would be able to cross it.  Then, just when I was nearing Southville Int’l School, I saw that the water was high, too.  “Come on!”  I was more than nervous that time co’z  I saw a car being pushed.  “God, please.  Let me cross safely”. 

During the night, we again had another church activity but didn’t try to leave the house.  I didn’t want to have the same experience as earlier, especially at nighttime. 

As of yesterday, Sunday, the flood waters in our area already subsided but not in the badly affected areas like Marikina, Rizal and Pasig.  A number of my co-workers were not able to report for work today co’z either their houses were still submerged in waters or their access roads are not passable yet.  

All I can say is that this is the worst.  “Ondoy” is almost a month’s worth of rains that fell in just six hours over Metro Manila last Saturday causing the worst floods in nearly 40 years.


Photo courtesy of BBC News